In this issue: Top pots on sale at the next SCBC meeting:
NEXT CLUB MEETINGS Welcome to the March Newsletter
Green Square Community Hall
3 Joynton Avenue
7pm Tuesday 8 April 2014
Lee to talk on grafting a Trident
Demonstration on preliminary styling of a Sandpaper Fig from an advanced stock
specimen - Lee.
Lee will do a short workshop on grafting a Trident Maple for bonsai.
Club Members focus – Junipers (root pruning), Olives, Privet and Buxus
7pm Tuesday 13 May 2014
Brenda, President of Illawarra Bonsai
Club will talk about Azaleas. Brenda is
a specialist in Azalea bonsai.
0432 461 025
Bryan talks about
collecting and placing
moss for bonsai.
PO Box 486
Summerhill NSW 2130
In this issue:
Patron Dorothy Koreshoff
Vice President Sue
Notes from US Bonsai Master Robert Kempinski on styling an advanced Scots
Pine at the Bonsai Society of Australia March meeting - see pages 2 - 4
Club March talks – Tree Health by Sue and Moss for Bonsai by Bryan – page 5
Report on Ausbonsai Auburn Sale and Bonsai Events Calendar – page 6
Newsletter Editor Roslyn
Top pots on sale at the next SCBC meeting:
Committee Lee & Tony
Full Membership $40.00
SCBC wishes to thank Sydney City
Council for their continued support
for our club by providing the hall at a
Finer older Japanese pots and an
older Mirkwood round pot. These
pots will be at the April meeting with
prices ranging from $10 to $30. The
Mirkwood pot by Pat Kennedy is
and older style/glaze and will never
The quality of each pot is rarely found on sale these days. An opportunity not to be
missed. The revenue will go in the club coffers so come prepared to buy a pot and
beautify your bonsai.
US BONSAI MASTER, ROBERT KEMPINSKI STYLES SCOTTS PINE
Phase 1 – Raw material to first style
Robert Kempinski is a
Past President and Past
Vice President of Bonsai
Clubs Inter-national and his
International teaching level
Rob began his interest in
bonsai in 1982. He first
attention in 2002 when he
was awarded the Joshua
Roth New Talent Award.
Buttonwood (Conocarpus erectus)
39 inches wide, Chinese pot
Winner of the World Bonsai Contest
Photo by Joseph Mullan
Rob’s trees have, three
times, been selected in the
Friendship Federation Top
100 Trees Competition,
which is supported by the
Nippon Bonsai Association.
AN EVENING WITH ROBERT KEMPINSKI
From notes taken by Lee Wright during Rob’s
demonstration on an advanced Scots Pine stock plant
with additional material by Colin Hugo and Rob
Noted American bonsai master, Robert Kempinski, gave a
demonstration at the Bonsai Society of Australia at their
March 4th meeting. Robert lives in Florida managing 300
bonsai in tropical conditions and this visit was his first time in
Rob’s philosophy is that work done on a tree today must be
done with some future goal in mind. There is no such thing
as an instant bonsai. This adds a fourth dimension to bonsai
work, that of time, and makes it unique among the arts. This
requires patience from the artist and awareness that a
bonsai has to be developed in concert with the growth of the
tree. When you start to work on a tree you need to establish
a design goal. You need to have some idea where you are
taking the tree and how you are going to develop it over the
years. Don't be in a hurry, with bonsai take your time.
The initial styling is to establish the structure of the trunk, roots
and perhaps the main branches. Emphasis on the roots at this
stage pays dividends as problems with root structure take the
longest to correct in the long term. Rob tries not to get carried
away with his initial styling; we just need to get the tree started on
its journey. You work in conjunction with the tree and always work
a tree to ensure its survival. There’s no sense doing impressive
work on a tree to have the tree die because the work was too
Phase 2 – Basic styling
The tree needs time to recover from the initial work and branches
and roots need to develop and cut marks need to heal. Plenty of
sun and fertilizer assist in this stage. If the trunk needs to thicken a
sacrifice branch in an inconspicuous position will assist. This stage
may last anywhere between 6 months and 5 years depending on
Phase 3 – Refinement
This is the time to develop ramification and reduce leaf size. The
tree can be moved to a smaller pot at this stage.
Phase 4 – Show
Final pot selection and decorative touches, such as moss or
pebbles, are required at this stage
Phase 5 – Redesign
Bonsai are constantly growing and changing and in some cases
may require a return to the basic styling stage for a design
change. As we all know the only completed bonsai is a dead
This may sound obvious but an artist must recognize at what
stage a tree is before starting work, because certain phases
require work that is only applicable to that stage and if
applied at the wrong time may be detrimental to the trees
Advanced Scots Pine before its journey
ROBERT KEMPINSKI STYLES SCOTTS PINE continued
Elements of Bonsai Design
It is important to consider taper because taper is related to
perspective, with the trunk and branches both tapering. Imagine
standing in front of a tall tree. You get an immediate look at
perspective as the tree tapers to a vanishing point high above
Think of bonsai as a work of art and look for perspective, texture
People focus on the line of the trunk but that's not the only
feature. Japanese say the tree should bow to you but what that
is actually achieving is not ‘a welcome’ but perspective.
Negative space is very important so foliage pads should be
defined to leave spaces between the branches.
Working on a tree as a piece of art or a sculpture means it
needs to look good from all sides. Everyone focuses on the
front but a bonsai is 3 dimensional and you need to have the
back look good as well.
Rules are guidelines. A styling guideline in branch placement is
a branch right, left and back with the No 1 branch one third of
the way up the trunk.
That’s the guideline but a lot of my [Rob] trees have the first
branch at the back. You can put foliage where you want it to
make the branch seem to be coming from a particular spot.
Robert tilts the tree and marks angle and front
of tree with a wire pin (plumb bob alternative)
Here are some general tips
Robert’s future plan and notes for
Bifurcation, from the Latin meaning to fork, is the splitting of the
main body dividing into two parts. Pine trees grow in whorls and
with multiple branches at one point the trunk will thicken and
develop reverse taper. It is important to cut back to two
branches. When you are pruning any time there are three
branches from one spot you remove one. When you are doing
bifurcation start at the trunk and work out.
Anytime you cut with a saw you must go back with a
sharp knife and trim the cut cambium edges so the
cambium cut is clean.
Rob doesn't seal any wounds; he lets the tree
manage its destiny.
Scots pine is the best back budding pine of the pines
used for bonsai.
Your final cut with the side cutter should be in line
with the branch as an oval cut heals better than a
If you want to make a tree look old you need
Repetition of form is rhythm. Repeating scars adds
rhythm to a tree rather than have just one scar. Don't
be afraid of scars – they add age and character.
Just take away the flat sawn look so they are
naturalized. With Scots pine when you remove
needles do so with a twist to protect the dormant bud
at the base of the needle.
The perch layer is the soil at the bottom of the pot
and it is the wettest part of soil.
The black pine Rob worked on was in a deep pot and
the roots were growing above the perch layer. If you
put a pine in a shallow pot the soil must be coarse
soil to ensure good drainage.
Critical Observation of a Plumb Bob.
When you are changing the angle of your tree attach a plumb
line to mark the vertical after you satisfactorily position your
wedges. Then use coloured string between two branches
creating a clear vertical line, or mark a spot on the soil where
the plumb falls, so when you position the tree in the pot you
know you have reproduced the exact potting angle again. This
way you will always get the angle you want.
ROBERT KEMPINSKI STYLES SCOTTS PINE continued from page 3
To compete with other trees many species grow tall to get
light. Therefore in these trees the apex has to be controlled
so the bottom branches don’t lose strength and the tree
stays in proportion.
Low growing trees and shrubs have stronger growth at the
bottom so the lower branches have to be balanced to the
A natural tree is good design but it's not the only option.
Branch selection, remove branches growing up and down
and work with branchlets growing right and left.
Rather than putting extreme bends in the branchlets to bring the
foliage closer to the tree, Robert is shaping the tree so future
back budding can be used to develop foliage pads closer to the
trunk and the branch lengths can be reduced.
Lime sulphur shouldn't be used on a pine. The deadwood
will weather to a dull grey without lime sulphur and dead
white jins on pines wouldn't look right.
If you use a second wire on a branch for additional strength Rob,
as an engineer, believes you don't have to position it next to the
first twists but wire so the second wire is in the middle of the two
previous turns and you get a stronger result.
Don't put more than three pieces of wire on any branch. That's too
The tree after major branch removal and new angle
to better position the apical and secondary branches
Robert completes the wiring anchoring the branches into position
after completing the pruning of the apex
Wood is stronger in compression than tension. If you wrap One last observation. Rob’s Florida club appreciates that the
branches in tape or raffia it compresses the cambium and future of bonsai is with younger enthusiasts and his club has
makes it stronger when you are doing heavy bending.
established a Children's Auxiliary Bonsai Club. The younger
members have their own meetings but are supported by the parent
Anchoring is the key to wiring. To anchor properly you need club, given tools and pots and older members often pass excess
one or two turns around the trunk then hold the wire with trees to the younger group. In this way this club is doing a lot to
one hand and move the wire around the branch with the promote new bonsai enthusiasts.
other. Keep moving your hand out as you wire closer to the
And remember one of Rob’s favourite sayings: Bonsai
are like potato chips, no one can have just one.
MARCH TALKS – TREE HEALTH AND MOSS FOR BONSAI
Impact of Weeds on Tree Health
Collecting and Propagating Moss for Bonsai
At the March meeting Sue brought in two trees that were not
healthy. The Elm had scant foliage with a lot of the leaves
yellow, definitely showing a deficit of something. Sue
explained that the owner had fertilised the tree when the soil
was dry and burned off a lot of the roots. A bonsai must be
hydrated before fertilising or using insecticide.
Moss is used to show off the tree, it brings up the tree and also
holds the soil in place, particularly if the soil is contoured. You can
find moss along the streets, in alleys, especially after rainy
weather when all the sun dried moss will be rehydrated.
To collect you can lift it easily with a paint scraper or a knife; put it
in a flat container with some water in it. You need to be aware that
it often grows on clay so you have to get the clay off so that it
doesn't block the soil.
When you are putting moss on your plant be sure the soil and the
moss are both moist. Moss will normally grow where there is
shade. Trim off any extra soil on the moss; pat the moss down so
it is thin; and, push it firmly into the soil in the pot. Put it around
the roots and extend over the soil as artistically needed.
Elm with scant foliage and
yellow leaves and lots of weeds
It was also necessary to thoroughly weed the pot which was
heavily carpeted with weeds, removing all the weed roots as
well as the greenery. The weeds were effectively using
most of the water as well as limiting air circulation around
The elm will regain its health but it is very important to keep
weeds out of bonsai pots. When a pot has little soil it is
necessary to ensure that tree roots get the full benefit of
room, nutrients and water, not weeds. Once you remove the
initial crop of weeds it is necessary to keep weeding to
remove the weeds that will sprout from seeds the weeds
Sue stressed the importance of always making sure your
trees are fully hydrated before fertilising or spraying with
insecticide. If you fertilise when the soil is dry the feeder
roots can easily burn and the tree will suffer. Take the tree
out of full sun until it recovers.
Two deadly weeds are liverwort and star weed. They both
carpet the soil and keep water and air from getting to the
The second tree was a very yellow pine with some green
foliage on the lower branches.
The tree wasn’t sick it was merely hungry and needed to be
fed. When a tree is this deprived of food that the leaves or
needles have turned yellow it will take several weeks for the
colour to revert to healthy green. Bonsai should be fed
with half strength fertiliser and need to be fed regularly
during the growing season.
Not only can moss enhance the tree, it can also hide defects. Be
sure you have weeded the soil surface before mossing, otherwise
the weeds will grow through the moss and you will tear the moss
up when you pull the weeds.
Don't let the moss grow up the trunk as that can cause collar rot.
Rub it off or remove it with a toothbrush. If you want to slow your
tree’s growth moss the entire soil surface. This will limit the air
getting to the roots and slow the growth. You have to be careful
with this approach as the tree roots do need air. It can be an
equally good idea to moss part of the soil and use decorative
gravel elsewhere so water and air can get to the roots.
When you moss a pot try to use different mosses, different colours
and textures. It can be boring to have the soil surface covered
with one type of moss; quite attractive to have greens and greys
and different textures. Keep in mind the location where your tree
would grow in nature and moss accordingly. An Olive, for
instance, grows in dry country so a bit of moss on the shady side
of the tree and fine gravel elsewhere will give a better feel of the
natural aspect of an olive.
If you are mossing a Juniper or a Pine you don’t want lush moss
as these trees grow in drier conditions and the moss should be
appropriate to the species and the feeling you are trying to impart.
Moss is not a long term aspect as it tends to die off in the summer
months. This is just part of doing bonsai. You can collect moss,
clear off the excess soil and dry the moss. When it is completely
dehydrated mix it with a bit of sand and peat and store it in a jar.
Six weeks before you need a green carpet sprinkle the dry moss
on the soil surface and keep watering. As it does in the streets
and alleys, it should rehydrate and green up again.
For more detailed discussion on moss see Paul Stoke’s on line
magazine Ofbbonsai at:
REPORT ON AUSBONSAI AUBURN SALE & EVENTS CALENDAR
AUSBONSAI SALE AT AUBURN A SUCCESS
Steven gathered the sellers into a group and discussed the day and how
it could be improved. Its success proves there is a good market and
The day smiled on the stall holders who turned up to fill
there is room for expansion if more sellers join the fun. There was a
the covered picnic area at Auburn with a large array of
strong cry for one of those mobile coffee vans to be on site and for
bonsai, stock plants and pots for the first Ausbonsai sale. some group to work the sausage sizzle all day both for sellers and
buyers. The stall rental was very modest and everyone agreed to pay a
The venue is terrific with ample room to unload very
bit more next year to allow for more advertising.
close to the sale tables which are hexagon picnic
benches with continuous seating around them. For
It was agreed that an annual sale would be scheduled with March as the
vendors with small quantities there were half tables.
optimal time. Those who were reticent about coming along as a buyer or
Steven Hantos, the founder of Ausbonsai and the mover a seller are advised to give this option a go next year. It is a good place
and shaker behind this sale day provided a sausage
to move on excess trees and pots or other bonsai equipment; the prices
sizzle with an array of salads for the sellers. The parking charged were realistic because the sellers have 4 hours to move stock.
was wonderful with ample spaces close by.
There is no worry about finding a good close parking spot and along
with all the advantages of buying and selling - well it’s a great social
By the time the gates were open at 10 am the buyers
outing as a bonus.
poured in and for an hour you could not look across the
sale area due to the amount of people. There were no
Sellers started arriving just after 8 am to get the best spot but all tables
cash registers ringing but money was changing hands at were good tables. There was no crush unloading or loading and you can
a great rate and the sale tables were thinning out rapidly. pull up on 4 sides of the selling area so there’s no distance carrying
By 1 pm the flow had eased but smiles abounded and
involved. The venue is simply terrific.
cash bags were full. At 2pm everyone was ready to back
up the remainder and go.
Make a note in your diaries for early March next year to either come as
a seller or come as a buyer. It is definitely worth the trip.
BONSAI EVENTS CALENDAR
RAS Showgrounds, Sydney Olympic Park
Bonsai at the Sydney Royal Easter Flower
and Garden Show
Illawarra Bonsai Society Annual Show
Bonsai Study Group show
Bonsai by the Harbour
S.C.E.G.S Rowing Facility, Wharf Road, Gladesville
27th National Bonsai Convention, “Sunrise
on Australian Bonsai”
Illawarra Bonsai Society The 15th Annual
Weekend Workshops at the Tops
Gold Coast, Queensland
Sutherland District Trade Union Club (Tradies), Kingsway, Gymea
West Pymble Community Hall, Lofberg Road.
Tops Conference Centre, Stanwell Tops
© 2006 Sydney City Bonsai Club | www.sydneycitybonsai.org.au | [email protected]